Skyrocketing Tainted Heroin Overdoses in Chicago

Commentary by Mary C. Piemonte

public domain photo of someone injecting Heroin.

public domain photo of someone injecting Heroin.

The synthetic painkiller Fentanyl, a drug that is prescribed to cancer patients and those suffering from chronic pain, is the  potentially dangerous culprit back on the scene causing havoc and chaos in Chicago, according to city health and fire officials.

CBS news recently reported that the Chicago Fire Department said that paramedics saw skyrocketing suspected heroin-tainted drug overdoses, especially on the West Side of the city where at least 23 people OD’ed in a span of 24 hours at the end of this past September.

And during a three-day span of time from September 29 to October 2, 2015, an estimated 74 people reportedly overdosed on the suspected tainted drug.

The massive spike in heroin overdoses is also leading Chicago paramedics to equip their emergency vehicles with extra doses of Narcan, a heroin overdose revival drug.

The Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy at Roosevelt University ranks Chicagoland as “among the worst in the nation among other cities for heroin use indicators.” Read their August 2015 full report here.

But why is that? Why is Chicago a city of major drug trafficking? And what has been or is being done about it?

Report by Illinois U.S. District Attorney on Tainted Heroin in Chicago
I wasn’t notified by any public officials from the Chicago health, police or fire department about the increased numbers of potentially tainted heroin overdoses by the time of this report.

However,  last year U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon of the Northern District of Illinois publicly talked about heroin overdoses,  drug trafficking  in the city and what he and the federal government were doing to solve the problem.

At a symposium on the national war on drugs, Fardon said that heroin drug trafficking and usage was a “disturbing” trend nationally and more significantly in Chicago, where he declared white powder heroin reined supreme.

U.S. Northern District of Illinois Attorney Zachary Fardon talking about Heroin Overdoses and the  Smart on Crime  Federal Initiative   during the "Rethinking the War on Drugs" symposium at Northwestern Law School on Feb. 21, 2014.  Photo by Mary C. Piemonte

U.S. Northern District of Illinois Attorney Zachary Fardon talking about Heroin Overdoses and the Smart on Crime Federal Initiative during the “Rethinking the War on Drugs” symposium at Northwestern Law School on Feb. 21, 2014. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte

“The days of intravenous-only use of black tar heroin are long gone. And white powder heroin that can be snorted is now King,” he declared to a room full of local and national judges, lawyers, policy makers and journalists during the “Rethinking the War on Drugs” symposium at Northwestern Law School on Feb. 21, 2014.

Fardon said in a study of 10 major cities, among all the arrestees (that is to say folks arrested for anything). Cook County ranked No.2 for arrestees testing positive for any drug, to include cocaine and marijuana. “Unfortunately, no. 1 for opioids, including heroin.”

And he added that the purity of heroin being distributed to dealers is so high that they are able to sell large amounts of potent doses from relatively small quantities of product..

Fardon said that Interstate 290, referred to as the heroin highway, is a known major location of illegal drug trafficking because drug addicts from the suburbs are able to come in and stop at gang controlled corners off of 290 to purchase drugs cheaply and then head back out to the suburbs.

“This has become a lucrative and important business from the gangs’ perspective. The New Breeds were one such gang. They controlled about five street corners in a section off of I-290, and our prosecution of their West Side street gang leader Dana Bostic, and about 25 of his associates ‘shed some light’ on the shootings and murders that were associated with that heroin highway operation” Fardon added.

In August 2012, Bostic, 33, known as “Bird” and “Mello,” was sentenced to 38 years in federal prison after being arrested in August 2010 for his part in heroin sold in a 12-block area near Pulaski Road and Van Buren Street, according to a Chicago Tribune news report that year.

Fardon said,  “Similarly, between 1996 and 2006, a gang called the Mickey Cobras distributed heroin laced with the pain killer Fentanyl to the residents of the Chicago Dearborn Homes public housing complex, resulting in a lot of drug overdoses.

“They developed a number of ‘product lines’ that were characterized by different cutting agents in different packaging. One leader of that gang, developed and sold product lines called “lethal injection’ and ‘drop dead.’
“Heroin laced with Fentanyl product lines being sold in the Dearborn Homes, they resulted in a number of deaths by overdose until the federal and local officials raided the Dearborn Homes and prosecuted 32 individuals associated with that deadly drug trafficking conspiracy,” Fardon said.

While the Editor-in-Chief of Residents’ Journal, a publication for and by Chicago low-income tenants, I wrote about the heroin laced with Fentanyl deadly ordeal that was circulating at the Chicago Housing Authority’s Dearborn Homes public housing complex several times.

My reporting included the fact that Corey Crump, 35, of the 1700 block of North Austin Avenue, was the first drug dealer to face a homicide charge in connection with Fentanyl-laced heroin since the Chicago Police Department Heroin Task Force was formed in April 2006 to address the outbreak of overdose fatalities.

Police reported linking Crump to the synthetic laced drug that killed 17-year-old Joseph Krecker.
Krecker, the son of Franklin Park Police Chief Jack Krecker, was found dead from a drug overdose in his vehicle on the Northwest Side.
His father, was instrumental in helping the CPD Heroin Task Force “identify the location where his son obtained the drugs” according to the CPD press release about the situation.

Read my full past reports on the subject here.

In another example echoing the Fentanyl issue, Fardon said  that in April, 2005, there were zero Fentanyl-related deaths.  In June, 2006 , where there were 140 Fentanyl-related deaths.

“Federal law enforcement was able to determine that the Fentanyl was coming from a particular lab in Tecola, Mexico, and take out that lab. By February 2007, the Fentanyl-related deaths were back down to zero” Fardon added.

Fardon said that his administration mainly target drug cartels instead of street dealers and users.

“Federal weight is a marker of seriousness. We do charge federal weight crimes. We don’t charge users. We don’t charge routine street dealers. But we have and will continue to charge major drug trafficking cases. Because those are an ongoing threat to our communities’ health and safety,” he said.

“So I throw those historic examples out there just to give you a flavor of the kinds of cases the federal law enforcement in this district has and does focus on. They’re cases that save lives. They’re cases that go after violent and dangerous drug trafficking organizations. The kinds of cases that we should focus our attention on,” Fardon added.

As to what is being done about the situation, watch my video production of Fardon talking about the new Smart on Crime federal initiative during the “Rethinking the War on Drugs” symposium at Northwestern Law School last year.

Fentanyl is more potent than heroin and combined usually results in overdose or death. As a matter of fact it is “100 times more powerful than morphine,” according to an article at

The author of the article wrote back in 2006 that police officers said then that dealers illegally selling the drugs on the streets mix heroin with Fentanyl because it “promises drug users a more powerful kick.”

“A kick, police say, into the next world,” the news report added.

A word to the wise is sufficient: Buyer beware!

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